Bragging rights will be on the line when Boston College men’s hockey (19-4-4, 11-1-4 Hockey East) takes on its fiercest rival, Boston University (16-7-4, 9-4-3), in the championship game of the Beanpot tournament on Monday night.
The Eagles come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having not lost in their first nine games of 2016. Jerry York and Company find themselves atop the Hockey East standings, and they are ranked No. 4 in the country in both the USA Today and USCHO.com polls. In the last two weeks alone, the Eagles have claimed impressive victories at No. 10 Notre Dame and against No. 7 Harvard. Nonetheless, BC had to work hard to claim a 4-3 victory over conference minnows New Hampshire on Friday night.
BU, on the other hand, enters the Beanpot final on a hot streak of its own. The Terriers have won five straight games, all by two goals or more. In fact, BU’s only defeat in the last two and a half months came in a hard-fought affair at Conte Forum. The Terriers are currently tied for fourth in the Hockey East standings with defending champions Providence, but are ranked a respectable No. 9 in the nation in both national polls. BU may not be one of the National Championship favorites sans 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel, but it still boasts a talented squad capable of giving BC fits.
Last Time They Played:
BC and BU have already met twice this year, as the two rivals played on back-to-back nights in mid-January. The Eagles successfully defended their home ice in the first contest, as they scored two late third-period goals to walk out of Conte Forum with a hard-earned 5-3 victory. On the next night at BU, both teams struggled to find the back of the net throughout the contest. Despite the two teams combining for 70 shots on goal, the game ended 1-1 after a scoreless overtime period. BU goalie Sean Maguire was well on his way to a 38-save shutout before junior forward Ryan Fitzgerald scored from the right slot with just over two minutes remaining to tie the game for the Eagles.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Stay Out of the Penalty Box: BC may not have many weaknesses, but its Achilles’ heel heading down the stretch is a big one. The Eagles simply can’t stay out of the penalty box. BC currently tops the Hockey East in penalty minutes (421) and penalty minutes per game (15.6). Although the Eagles possess one of the best penalty-killing units in the nation, they cannot afford to give BU extra opportunities. BU possesses a strong power play unit, as it currently ranks fourth in the conference with a 21.6 power play percentage. In the teams’ first meeting this season, the Terriers burned the Eagles for three power-play goals.
- Start Quickly Out of the Gate: BC has done a great job getting on the scoreboard early this season, as it currently ranks second in the conference with 34 first-period goals and a +18 first-period goal differential. BU, on the other hand, has struggled with slow starts throughout the year. The Terriers have scored just 24 first-period goals this season, and their +4 first-period goal differential ranks just fifth in the conference. The Eagles should be looking to attack early on to gain control of the contest, as BU usually gets better as the game goes along. The Terriers have scored a staggering 46 third-period goals this season.
- Shut Down Danny O’Regan and Ahti Oksanen: BU has been carried by strong goaltending and the scoring exploits of senior forwards Danny O’Regan and Ahti Oksanen all season long. O’Regan currently ranks fourth in the conference with 32 points, while Oksanen ranks sixth with 30 points. O’Regan has been one of the best players in the nation over the last month, as he has compiled a point in nine consecutive games. Over that stretch, he has tallied five goals and eight assists, including three assists in the two games against BC. Oksanen doesn’t boast the same type of consistency, but he is more than capable of changing a game on any given night. The Finland native has nine multi-point games this season. If BC can limit the impacts of O’Regan and Oksanen, it should be able to walk out of the TD Garden with its 20th Beanpot title.
Featured Image by Savanna Kiefer / Heights Editor